OSU freshman Dontre Wilson drew lots of attention Sunday at media day. He has split time between running back and receiver.
COLUMBUS DISPATCH/KYLE ROBERTSON Enlarge
COLUMBUS — The biggest crowds surrounded the smallest player at Ohio State’s media day.
From the day Dontre Wilson tornadoed onto campus earlier this summer, the hype has steadily built. Teammates couldn’t restrain themselves — quarterback Braxton Miller said the 5-foot-10, 174-pound freshman should start immediately — while even coach coach Urban Meyer called him a missing piece of the offense.
Sunday, the man and the message-board myth met with reporters for the first time. Though mostly humble, Wilson did nothing to temper the expectations.
Is he a home run hitter?
"Yes, sir," Wilson said. "I would like to think so."
The fastest man on the team?
"I would like to say, but I haven't raced yet," he said with a smile.
Surprised he’s been the talk of camp?
"I am surprised," he said. "I didn't expect it to be this way. But I do my job , and I work hard every day."
The Buckeyes are the popular pick to interrupt the Southeastern Conference's seven-year reign of college football mostly because what they have coming back.
Where to begin? Quarterback Braxton Miller has surpassed Johnny Manziel as the Vegas frontrunner to win the Heisman Trophy. Nine of 11 starters return on an offense that averaged a Big Ten-high 37.2 points last year. And the other side, though remodeled, will be fortified by preseason conference defensive player of the year Ryan Shazier at linebacker and All-American cornerback Bradley Roby.
Yet as Ohio State begins the second week of camp, Wilson and the guys coming in are the ones generating the loudest buzz.
Like with Florida’s 2006 national championship team, which added H-back Percy Harvin and a roster of early-impact freshmen to a veteran team, Meyer believes the Buckeyes’ blue-chip new guys could make all the difference.
"The ’06 team did that, it injected a bunch of speed and playmakers into that team," Meyer said. "I see very similar qualities in this class. I feel that same way, certainly on offense. I feel a little bit of a jolt on our offense. Our theory is you go play, not redshirt. If you don't play, it's because you’re not good enough. It’s not because we're saving you."
The connecting thread of the 24-member class is its speed. Still, while the Buckeyes’ top-five haul was headlined by five-star talent — safety Vonn Bell, linebacker Mike Mitchell, defensive end Joey Bosa, receiver Jalin Marshall, and cornerbacks Eli Apple and Cam Burrows — it’s the four-star Wilson who has the most of it.
Wilson is billed as a game-changer, a hybrid who combined for 2,645 yards of total offense and 46 touchdowns during his senior season at DeSoto High in Texas. Originally committed to Oregon, he changed his pledge after Ducks coach Chip Kelly bolted for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.
"Who wouldn't like to get coached by Urban Meyer?" he said. "I don't think Oregon would have been the same without coach Kelly."
Wilson could fill a role similar to Harvin did at Florida, though Meyer said he may not be suited yet for an H-back role.
For now, Wilson has split time between receiver and running back. In the only practice open to reporters, he caught at least three touchdown passes in scrimmage situations.
All Meyer knows is Wilson needs to be on the field — no matter the role. Wilson said he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds this summer. He and Mitchell were the first scholarship freshmen to lose their black stripe and earn symbolic standing as full-fledged Buckeyes.
Asked if Wilson adds a dimension the Buckeyes lacked in the past, Meyer said, "Oh my gosh, yes. He’s got something that we didn’t have last year and that’s just jets.”
Miller thinks Wilson should be a starter.
"He can play multiple spots — H and Z (wide receiver), he can run any route and he can also come in the backfield and take handoffs. I feel like he can help us in every aspect,” Miller said.
Wilson, meanwhile, is not too picky.
"My goal is to just get on the field and play," he said. "But, really, the ultimate goal is to win a national championship, and to be a part of it."
EXTRA POINTS: Sophomore defensive back Najee Murray has been suspended indefinitely for what Meyer called a "training camp issue." Murray played six games in a special teams role before a torn ACL ended his season. But the Stuebenville native appeared in the mix for playing time this fall, especially early if junior starter Bradley Roby is suspended for his arrest last month on a misdemeanor battery charge. His departure would thin the Buckeyes' touted but inexperienced insurance options at corner. Behind starters Roby and Doran Grant are sophomore Armani Reeves and freshmen Apple, Burrows, and Gareon Conley. ... Meyer said freshman defensive lineman Donovan Munger will miss the season after undergoing treatment for a blood clot in his leg.
Contact David Briggs at: email@example.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.
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